Long Island voters approved funding for the new position of town administrator at its annual town meeting on May 9.
The vote marks a turning point for the town-it’s the first time voters have approved the hiring of outside support to assist in town government since its secession from Portland in 1993. There were 17 votes against and 74 for article 2, which give the selectmen the authority to hire a town administrator and determine the position’s salary. Michael Floyd, selectmen chair, said the board of selectmen supported the hiring of a town administrator for many reasons.
“We feel professional help is warranted because of complex issues we’re dealing with…we’re a small town but we’re dealing with state mandated things,” Floyd said.
The definite responsibilities of the position have yet to be identified by the selectmen, a prospect that worried several voters at the meeting. However, Floyd said that it was impossible to nail down a precise job description given the scope of responsibilities an administrator would take on. A suggested job description was handed out to voters at the meeting.
“They’ll work with some of the stuff planning board does, some of the things the finance committee does,” Floyd said, adding that issues that have been put “on the back burner” in the past due to time constraints would be addressed by the administrator. Additionally, Floyd said that in no way would the administrator be managing the town’s affairs – Long Islanders would retain control of the administrator’s responsibilities because the selectmen would be the ones to define the position.
“There are differences between a town manager and a town administrator,” Floyd said. “State law dictates the duties of a town manager. A town administrator is exactly what the town wants them to be.”
While there was much support for the article, there were some residents who were against the idea. Several people questioned why the selectmen couldn’t do the work of an Administrator, suggesting the proposed Administrator salary – $15,030 which includes $2,550 for travel expenses – be siphoned to the selectmen on the condition of increased hours. Resident Nancy Jordan spoke against the article, saying that the town’s government was strong and that outsourcing such a position was unnecessary.
“We might screw up sometimes,” she said, “But we do a good job.”
However, many people spoke strongly in support of the article. Emil Berges, a lifelong Islander, said he trusted his government to make good decisions regarding the town’s future.
“This town is so cheap,” Burgess said. “The selectmen have done a good job. If this is what they want, let’s give it to them.”
Mark Greene, who served as a moderator for the meeting, said he supports the article and believes that the position would give the town some continuity of government. Currently, there are three selectmen that serve 3-year terms, staggered. According to Floyd, there have been no selectmen that have served consecutive terms. But regardless of the vote, Greene said, he believed the debate regarding the article was impressive.
“I think people were thinking a lot about their government,” Greene said. “About what works and what doesn’t.”
The search for applicants is underway, Floyd said, though he is still conversing with the Maine Municipal Association in regards to the process of hiring an administrator. Floyd said he thinks the ideal candidate will have experience in municipal government and that financial knowledge will be helpful.
“Maybe someone retired with some kick left in them,” he said, adding that the position would only require 12 hours a week, coinciding with the hours of Long Island Town Hall. “I know if we get a nice person to the island, they’d just love it.”
And while the debate surrounding the Town Administrator position and subsequent vote was a hot topic of the meeting, other decisions that were made sparked discussion.
While the town voted to pass the comprehensive plan, an ordinance regarding wind power regulations was rejected, leaving the town with no regulation regarding wind turbines. An ordinance regarding land use and accessory dwelling units was passed. The school budget passed at $472,186 by a secret ballot vote held on May 18 with 33 percent voter turnout. The total town budget passed at $1,125,288 on May 9 with 42 percent voter turnout.
Several islanders were voted into public offices. Tommy Hohn was elected for a three-year selectmen’s term, replacing Michael Floyd who will step down as chair of selectmen. Amy Tierney was elected into a three-year term on the school board and Melissa Cleaves was elected into a two-year term. Brad Brown, who has served as the town’s year-round public safety officer for 17 years, stepped down due to new state mandates.
Kate Power is the Island Institute’s Long Island Recreation Fellow.